It sounds like such a simple thing, doesn’t it? But it’s one of those many things in life that is much easier to say than it is to do.

Look at things from the other person’s point of view.

When it comes to building trust and rapport, this principle is one of the top seven that we have found to be important. Let me illustrate what it means with an example.

The other day, I got a phone call from my aunt and uncle. They live out West and I have always enjoyed a close relationship with them. They were calling to confirm details for their upcoming visit to Michigan this weekend.

We chatted, confirming our plans, and conversation turned to my parents, with whom they would be staying for a night. The comments turned quite critical of my mother and her “different” way of handling things, such as people coming and going from her house.

My jaw clenched and my muscles tightened as I listened to them complain about her. I felt myself growing defensive. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to my aunt and uncle – they are entitled to their point of view, and at times, I have shared it. But this was hitting a nerve with me. They were not taking into consideration the “golden rule” – I can complain about my mom, but no one else can!

As our phone conversation went on, they sensed my unhappiness, as my responses became shorter and more abrupt. They were confused as to why I wasn’t as chipper and chatty as I had been at the beginning of the conversation. Not wanting to offend them, I brushed it off and ended the call.

What my aunt and uncle failed to do in that moment was to try and see things from my point of view. As they launched into their complaints about my mother’s housekeeping, her fondness for her cats, and her way of communicating (loudly) with my dad, they did not stop for a moment to consider that while their complaints/observations may in fact be quite accurate, their choice of blunt delivery of them was lacking in sensitivity to how it would make me feel.

This is behavior that happens in the workplace with astonishing frequency. We are so busy running around, focused on our own problems, deadlines and projects that we fail to take others into consideration when we heap another task onto someone else’s plate.

“It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. –Alfred Adler

As this quote so accurately reveals, we risk the unintentional consequence of hurting those around us when we don’t take the time to stop and look at things from their perspective. Do they already have their own daunting piles of tasks that needs doing? Am I only taking my own feelings and perspective into consideration? These are questions we should ask ourselves regularly.

Because it is easier said than done, stopping to look at things from another person’s perspective is something to which we give lip service. Have you put it into practice today? Take a moment to think before you answer that….

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

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